A giant bows out: Michigan senator leaves with his reputation intact

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Michigan's senior U.S. senator, Carl Levin, the chairman of the powerful Armed Services Committee, is calling it a career after six terms. He will not run for re-election next year and plans to focus instead on "doing my job without the distraction of campaigning."

That announcement last week was typical of Sen. Levin's political career, one worth noting as a refreshing contrast to the public disdain that generally attaches to members of Congress. He has been a fairly liberal Democrat but also has won the votes of hundreds of thousands of Republicans who trusted his intelligence and integrity.

When his term ends, he will have served 36 years in the Senate, longer than anyone else in Michigan history. His tenure has not been marred by personal or political scandal. He has looked out for the interests of his state and gotten the people's business done.

Mr. Levin has been a strong voice for American manufacturing and the U.S. auto industry. He helped rally support for the federal bailout that saved Chrysler and General Motors. He has been tenacious in going after abuses on Wall Street and in the financial services industry. He was the main author of the Whistleblower Protection Act.

With his rumpled suits and plastic glasses on the end of his nose, Sen. Levin is anything but glamorous, but voters sensibly didn't care. Had he sought another term, he likely would have breezed past token opposition.

Yet he would have been 86 years old at the end of another term. Congress is full of men who stayed past their prime and sometimes their competence. Although he didn't say so, Mr. Levin clearly had no desire to be one of them.

Next year, Michigan voters will elect a successor to a legislative and ethical giant. But it's unlikely they'll ever find a true replacement for Carl Levin.

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